Events

Edinburgh International Book Festival, Saturday 12th August, 5.00 pm

Kenilworth Arts Festival, Tuesday 19th September, 7.45 pm

Cheltenham Literary Festival, Friday 6th –  Sunday 15th October – see below


I am delighted to be one of the Guest Curators for this year’s Cheltenham Literary Festival. Planning my events on 14th & 15th October has been a great pleasure:

I’ll be talking to the polar travel writer and historian Huw Lewis-Jones, poet Sandeep Parmar and Alex Clark about The Writing Life. I’m hoping we can move away from the idea of the room of one’s own, which is after all available to very few of my generation, and even further from the image of the writer as inspired solitary. I’m interested in writing in and about everyday life, in the focus on craft which comes with the understanding that writing a book is mostly a job of work.

 

Next comes a conversation with Heidi Thomas, writer of Call The Midwife, and historian Dominic Sandbrook called Brits Abroad: Our Cultural Exports. I’m excited to meet Heidi because I admire Call the Midwife for its focus on women’s professional lives, its rigorous rejection of nostalgia and its detailed history of the rise of the NHS. The series seems to me a work of political radicalism that pays serious, loving attention to the invention of the welfare state, and so stands out from most of the costume dramas that make successful exports. Britain’s cultural industries are globally successful, but what kind of national identity are we exporting? Can we have popular history without nostalgia?

 

On Sunday Oct 15th I’ll be in conversation with former colleague, Professor Jennie Batchelor, and Lucy Worsley about Jane Austen. I think we misread Austen as a writer of romantic comedies, and that her work is deeply, delightfully cynical and the ‘happy endings’ deliberately implausible. I’m hoping we can redeem Austen from the popular image of ball gowns and happily ever after to think about her interest in the workings of money, power, and patriarchy.

 

I’ll be discussing my own work later that afternoon, and finally talking with Jen Campbell and Coco Khan about the relationship between feminism and love stories. I’m intrigued by the difficulties of a feminist happy ending, which for the heroines of my own fiction usually takes the form of some hard-fought but eventually sustainable way of combining heterosexual monogamy with professional fulfilment. There are other possibilities too…